Wait—Did Your Favorite Fragrance Already Expire?

Plus, how to keep that beloved juice from going bad.

fragrance expiration

For me, fragrance is the most personal of all beauty products because of the way it evokes emotion and influences your mood—scent can even influence memory formation while you sleep. I, for example, have had a bottle of the original 1975 Chloé perfume sitting atop my vanity for years. It was the perfume my mom wore while I was growing up, so I’ve always associated it with her, which is why I feel so grounded and comforted when I smell it. I don’t wear it very often, but every now and then I will, or at the very least I’ll open the bottle for a few whiffs before capping it again.

But now that it’s been a part of my collection for at least five years, and half the juice still remains, it raises the question—how long should I keep my beloved fragrance before replacing it with a fresh bottle?

Does fragrance expire?

How can I tell if it’s gone bad?

With these questions (and more), I turned to the experts—namely, Ben Krigler, the fifth-generation owner of the luxury perfume house Krigler, and Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat.

According to Krigler, the answer to my first question isn’t an exact science, since there are two factors to consider. The quality of the bottle that houses the fragrance plays a major role in preserving the juice. “Fragrances do not have an expiration date if the sprayer is sealed to the bottle and the liquid cannot technically be in direct contact with the air,” he says. In other words, if the bottle that the fragrance is stored in is sound, and the juice isn’t coming into direct contact with the air, fragrances can last a very long time. “It’s not like skin care,” Krigler continues. “I have a bottle of America One 31 from 2012. I sprayed it, and the scent is even deeper and better than its origin.”

The second factor to consider, aside from the soundness of the perfume bottle itself, is the quality of the actual fragrance. Krigler says there’s a direct correlation between the quality of the fragrance and the duration of it. In fact, he likens it to a bottle of fine wine that gets better with age. “A good fragrance, with good ingredients and a very good concentration, like ours, can be as good as a good bottle of wine with age, but it has to be a very good one and, of course, not in contact with the air.” This is why he recommends only using the sealed bottle the fragrance comes in, and not transferring it to other travel-size bottles. “I know the trend is to pour perfume inside traveling sizes,” he says, “but these perfumes do not last as long as the sealed bottle. It’s a choice to make. If you want to keep your perfume for years, privilege sealed bottles.”

So let’s say you’ve been playing mad scientist and pouring your fragrances back and forth between bottles and travel-size containers. Is it possible that the fragrance could expire? The answer, according to Robinson, is yes. “Fragrances can expire, though they remain stable longer than other types of beauty products.” The reason they last longer than other products is due to their alcohol content. “The alcohol serves as a preservative as well as prevents fragrance components from oxidizing.” Robinson says it’s easy to tell if a fragrance has expired by the scent. If expired, the scent will shift from pleasant to rancid, or it will smell less intense than it did originally.

If you’re like me and you have a fragrance you cherish (whether it’s the strong tuberose and honeysuckle scent of the 1975 Chloé perfume or not is beside the point), you’re probably already wondering: How can I prolong the life of it? Easy. Keeping the fragrance in the original sealed bottle is one. Limiting its exposure to the air is another, and storing it in a controlled environment is third. “To protect your fragrance, you should never keep it in the bathroom,” Krigler says. “The variation of temperature is not good, and light is also an enemy of your fragrance. My advice is to keep your fragrance in your bedroom in a closet or drawer to protect it best.” So while it may be tempting to keep your collection of bottles on display for everyone to see, may we suggest pulling them out for special occasions and keeping them safely tucked away for many years to come. 

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